Wanting More Rufus (EP Review)

20030909-202151-g Rufus Wainwright's digital EP "Waiting For A Want" was finally posted on iTunes last Thursday (music link).  The EP counts two songs that were recorded during the production of his last studio album "Want One," and two live tracks that were taped during his recent tour. The gay singer is scheduled to release his full-length album "Want Two" later this year. Produced by Marius DeVries, "Waiting For A Want" features more of Wainwright's dreamy vocals, majestic piano chords and introspective lyrics. A brief summary of the songs on the album: Gay Messiah This is Wainwright's clear-cut protest against the church's treatment of gay people. The singer turns the table on religion when he sings, "Better pray for your sins, because the Gay messiah is coming." The track unfortunately lacks some of the singer's energetic vocals to make a lasting impression. The EP has a parental warning slapped on its cover for the mild sexual content of this song. The Art Teacher A gripping love song that vividly tells the story of a female student falling in love with her art professor. Gorgeous melody and execution. This Love Affair A signature Wainwright song that leans on his poetic lyricism and theatrical pop instrumentation. The ballad includes touching lyrics such as, "I can't say that I'm cruising. Not that I don't like cruising, just that I'm bruising from you." Includes a mesmerizing waltz arrangement, which adds a haunting effect to the song. Waiting For A Dream One of Wainwright's best with lush strings and a gorgeous piano-driven tune. The singer combines humor with suffering as he sings, "Yesterday I heard they cloned a baby. Now can I finally sleep with me?" The song's abrupt ending is likely an intentional production trick.

July 4, 2004 in Music Reviews, Rufus Wainwright | Permalink | Comments (2)

Junior Senior

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When DJ Junior Vasquez was forced to leave New York’s Sound Factory after it closed down in January, rumors were flaring that the granddaddy of house might decide to leave the club scene completely. After more than two decades behind the turntables, it was perhaps time for Vasquez to pack his bags, move to Ft. Lauderdale and enjoy retirement.

When I spoke with Vasquez in 2001, he voiced his frustration about the ever-changing Manhattan nightlife scene. The overbearing city legislation was a thorn in his side that made it increasingly difficult for him to play and have fun.

In many ways, his exit at Sound Factory might have been a blessing for Vasquez. Yes, he did lose a prestigious residency, but it was a perfect way to work on alternative music projects.

He has continued making remixes for both established and new artists. He is back with a weekly residency at New York’s Discotechque. Most recently, his remix of Jason Walker's "My Life" hit the Billboard Dance Top Ten. Solid proof that Vasquez has not lost his magic spin quite yet.

This month, he releases the double disc set "Anthem 2" on his independent Junior Vasquez Music (JVM) label. The album boasts almost 139 minutes of non-stop music that includes new remixed versions of club favorites from Kristin W, Vivian Green and Deborah Cox.

Highlights are the remixed tracks "Blood" and "House of Jupiter" of pop crooner Casey Stratton. You would never think that Stratton’s piano-driven tunes would make great dance anthems, but Vasquez shows that everything is possible.

He cut and pasted the singer's vocals, inserted a thicker baseline and threw in some extra percussion to turn the modest Stratton into a fierce circuit diva. The Stratton mixes also appeared as a single on June 15th (read my earlier review).

The CD does not feature any of the "pots-n-pans" house that is often part of Vasquez' life gigs. Instead, Vasquez adds his own twist to the original tracks with butter smooth baselines, subdued climaxes and atmospheric vocals that keep the essence of the song intact.

"Anthem 2" turns out to be a satisfying remix effort that will likely please most of Vasquez' fans. The DJ still has longevity and easily weathers the tribal house trend that is currently ruling the circuit.

July 1, 2004 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (5)

The Piano Man Remixed

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"Anthem 2" is Junior Vasquez' newest remix album that will be hitting stores next Tuesday. The album features remixes of club favorites including Kristine W, Deborah Cox, Jason Walker and Vivian Green. More interesting are the remixes that the legendary house DJ recently did for singer Casey Stratton (interview).

Ever since I first listened to Stratton's debut "Standing At The Edge," I have been mesmerized by his gorgeous melodies and melancholic lyrics. His voice in particular is striking and resonates the sounds of Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan.

You would never think that Stratton’s piano-driven tunes would make great dance anthems. But once again Vasquez has worked his magic and shows that everything is possible. He cut and pasted the singer’s vocals, inserted a thicker baseline and threw in some extra percussion to turn the modest Stratton into a fierce circuit diva on the songs "House of Jupiter" and "Blood" (iTunes).

Stratton writes on his personal weblog about the success of the Vasquez remix. "I am also happy that my remix of 'Blood' has hit the Billboard chart. FINALLY some good music news for me. I needed it," he wrote today. The talented singer should indeed be pleased. The excellent remix that Vasquez has put out might elevate his career to the next level of popularity.

Stratton will be performing with Vasquez at his gay pride party at Spirit in New York on June 27th (flyer).

June 17, 2004 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (9)

Will & Grace: Who's Your Daddy?

Sitcom soundtrack rumored to include
duet Megan Mullally and kd lang

"Will & Grace" will be singing a different tune later this year. NBC is currently creating a soundtrack for the popular sitcom, which is scheduled for release on September 7th.

According to an NBC spokesperson, the compilation will be "witty, refreshing, fun, flirty and irreverent are that appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds."

The compilation will be titled "Will & Grace: Who's Your Daddy" and feature songs from and inspired by the show. The album will include classics like dance hit "Got To Be Real" by Cheryl Lynn, "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" by Ella Fitzgerald; as well as new recordings by the cast members themselves performing with some of the world's most renowned artists.

Megan Mullally told Arjan (interview) last year about a duet she was preparing with lesbian singer kd lang. This song is rumored to be included on the CD as well.

"Will & Grace: Who's Your Daddy" also includes new recording of "Footloose" by Kevin Bacon/Bacon Brothers as well as a dance remix "Who"s Your Daddy: The Will & Grace remix" which lifts portions of classic "Will & Grace" one-liners and dialogue and incorporates them into the track.

May 19, 2004 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1)

Anything but a Drag

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The highly-anticipated soundtrack from “The L Word” is anything but a drag.

You don’t have to be a lesbian to enjoy the music from this popular Showtime series about a group of young women in Los Angeles.

Executive Producer Rosie Lopez had a long list of tunes she wanted to use from the hit show. She decided primarily to go with songs from a variety of female singer/songwriters.

The result is an eclectic compilation of 14 songs performed by timeless talent such as Joan Armatrading, Lucinda Williams and Marianne Faithful.

Besides mirroring the program’s storyline, Lopez also wanted to come up with a selection of songs that the show’s characters would listen to and possibly own.

“I imagined Marina owning Fantcha, Shayne being a Murmurs fan, and Bette and Tina listening to Rufus [Wainwright],” Lopez says.

The disk’s most noteworthy surprise is Frances Faye’s “Frances And Her Friends,” which fits the spirit of the show perfectly. The daring ’50s nightclub singer was one of the first artists to openly talk about her bisexuality.

The endearing “Genius,” performed by girl band The Murmurs, has a special meaning for Leisha Hailey, who plays the bisexual journalist, Alice, on the show. She founded the group with Heather Groy in the mid-’90s. Together, they’re currently working on the debut of their new band Gush.

Cape Verdean vocalist Fantcha is featured with the exuberant Portuguese track “Sol Ja Camba.”

Wainwright, a gay singer/songwriter, is one of three male vocalists on the soundtrack. His sublime “Hallelujah” is one of the singer’s finest performances, with his wistful vocals and stripped down piano arrangement.

Lopez chose “Hallelujah” and “Right In Time” by Lucinda Williams because they were used in some of the memorable scenes in the show.

“I got e-mails from fans saying that they were using video on demand and Tivo to rewind these scenes so they could listen to the songs over and over,” she says.

“The L Word” soundtrack is a remarkable collection of music that features some of America’s greatest talent.

Whether you watch program each Sunday night or not, this album stands on its own and will likely resonate with an audience much larger than the show’s faithful followers.

May 6, 2004 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (2)